Amid a flurry of flickering candles and black tablecloths, University of Dallas students viewed a variety of films produced by their peers. The array of shorts included mock crime films, mock news stories, mock dramas and quick love stories.
After the two-hour-long squeeze in the Haggar Café, the audience hung in suspense as the hosts, juniors Kevin Key and Mary Jane Plote, announced the winners of the Tower Film Fest. The first place winner was “Act Casual.”
“Act Casual,” is a film about a university student too nervous to ask out his crush. The short was filmed and scripted by 2015 graduate Tim Nguyen, and edited by Nguyen and fellow 2015 graduate Mike McDermott. Senior Mary-Therese Hafernik, the film’s producer, worked with Nguyen for last year’s film festival, acting in the short, “Second Chance,” which won second place.
Hafernik says that dating has consistently appeared as a subject in previous film fests because it wins many laughs. When she and Nguyen were tossing around ideas they settled on this surefire topic.
This year’s film began with Alex (played by senior Felipe Sanchez) approaching a girl (Hafernik) in the library. He attempts to kiss her, only to wake up and find that he’s been kissing his pillow instead. The film’s storyline revolves around discussions about casual dating with Fr. Thomas Esposito (playing himself) and fellow classmates. The film ends when Alex musters the courage to ask the girl out to eat burritos.
Unfortunately, Hafernik was unable to attend Film Fest due to her sister’s wedding. In her absence, her co-star, Sanchez, received the award: a piece of Lynch.
Sanchez admitted his surprise at winning and mentioned that it was the first time he had acted in a film.
“It was a bit awkward at times, I’m not going to lie,” Sanchez says of the role.
According to Nguyen, Alex was originally going to be played by junior Stephen Henderson, but when Henderson was unable to play the part, Sanchez stepped in and the filmmakers couldn’t have been happier with the new actor.
“He was perfect for the role,” Hafernik said.
“He really made the film,” Nguyen said.
Filming only took one day, and the editing took another day. Nguyen remembers rushing his production of past films to meet the Film Fest deadline, but, with this film, Nguyen had written a script and prepared more in advance.
There were some tricky elements involved in filming, such as coordinating the schedules of students. In addition, many scenes required multiple takes due to loud wildlife, passing cars and actors bursting into laughter.
Hafernik mentions that the biggest struggle of filming was simply compiling it all in time, and Nguyen says that squeezing everything into the time limit was difficult. However, both of them, as well as the rest of the cast, are happy with the end result.
Sanchez and Hafernik plan to try and split the concrete Lynch piece three ways among themselves and Nguyen in celebration of their efforts.